Old Masters and New, Essays in Art Criticism: Kenyon …
Following a worldwide feminist movement in the later 20th century, women became a renewed topic for art and art history, giving rise to gender analysis of both artistic production and art historical discourse. Gender is to be understood as a system of power, named initially patriarchal and also theorized as a phallocentric symbolic order. A renewed and theoretically developed as well as activist feminist consciousness initially mandated the historical recovery of the contribution of women as artists to art’s international histories to counter the effective erasure of the history of women as artists by the modern discipline of art history. This has also led to a rediscovery of the contributions of women as art historians to the discipline itself. Gender analysis raises the repressed question of gender (and sexuality) in relation both to creativity itself and to the writing of art’s necessarily pluralized histories. Gender refers to the asymmetrical hierarchy between those distinguished both sociologically and symbolically on the basis of perceived, but not determining, differences. Although projected as natural difference between given sexes, the active and productive processes of social and ideological differentiation produces gendered difference that is claimed, ideologically, as “natural.” As an axis of power relations, gender can be shown to shape social existence of men and women and determine artistic representations. Gender is thus also understood as a symbolic dimension shaping hierarchical oppositions in representation in texts, images, buildings, and discourses about art. It is constantly being produced by the work performed by art and writing about art. Feminist analysis critiques these technologies of gender while itself also being one, albeit critically seeking transformation of social and symbolic gender. The analysis of gender ideologies in the writing of art history and in art itself, therefore, extend to art produced by all artists, irrespective of the gendered identity of the artist. Women, having been excluded by the gendering discourses of modern art history, have had to be recovered from an oblivion those discourses created while the idea of women as artist has to be reestablished in the face of a an ideology that places anything feminine in a secondary position. Women are not, however, a homogeneous category defined by gender alone. Women are agonistically differentiated by class, ethnicity, culture, religion, geopolitical location, sexuality, and ability. Gender analysis includes the interplay of several axes of differentiation and their symbolic representations without any a priori assumptions about how each artwork/artist might negotiate and rework dominant discourses of gender and other social inflections. The postcolonial critique of Western hegemony and a search for non-Western-centered models of inclusiveness that respect diversity without creating normative relativism are driving the tendency of the research into gender in and art history toward an as yet unrealized inclusiveness regarding gender and difference in general rather than the creation of separate subcategories on the basis of the gender or other qualifying characteristics of the artist. The objectives of critical art historical practices focusing on gender and related axes of power are to ensure consistent and rigorous research into all artists, irrespective of gender, for which a specific initiative focusing on women as artists in order to correct a skewed and gender-selective archive has been necessary, and to expand the paradigm of art historical research in general to ensure that the social, economic, and symbolic functions of gender, sexual, and other social and psycho-symbolic differences are consistently considered as part of the normal procedures of art historical analysis.
Old Masters And New Essays In Art Criticism
Gay Criticism – Literary Theory and Criticism Notes
Curiously enough, in view of the critical tides of our times, the literary reputation of John Steinbeck seems to be undergoing a positive reassessment within academic circles. Of course, Steinbeck's popularity has never waned with the general reader, both here and abroad; most nonacademic students of his work probably would rank him with the "Big Three" of modern American fiction—Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner. Although the academic stock of this triumverate is marked by mixed losses and gains, after all they are "D.W.M.s" (Dead White Males), [End Page 256] the Steinbeck market looks decidedly bullish. The reasons for this upturn are somewhat difficult to discern, as Steinbeck's work seems as little amenable to the new "political correctness" or the new critical arcana as it was to the old New Republic liberalism or the old New Criticism. Steinbeck's attitude toward the "Other," especially as manifested in nonmale and nonwhite characters, makes the sensitive reader as nervous as any of the masters in the old canon.
Robert Masters, husband of Jean Houston, has passed …
Perhaps the main reason for Steinbeck's re-establishment is simply an instance of the Emersonian law of compensation; his fiction was so critically underrated for so long that the pendulum had to swing back toward him once again. Steinbeck at his best really is a fine writer, an American master accessible to both learned and general readers, an interesting place to occupy in the continuing battle of the canons. More immediate reasons for his rising stock probably include the omniverous appetite of academic criticism; if Steinbeck does not lend himself to deconstruction, he does yield to biographical, psychological, social, and textual study. Jackson Benson's monumental biography, The True Adventures of John Steinbeck, Writer, marked a turning point in Steinbeck studies in 1984. In short order the fiftieth anniversaries of Steinbeck's major fictions of the 1930s have produced a surge of interest, capped by at least a dozen books of all sorts in recognition of his single masterpiece, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Interestingly enough, the four books reviewed here concern themselves with Steinbeck's most important and accessible work—the stories, short novels, and popular successes—for the most part from biographical, social, and textual perspectives. It is a pleasure to report that all four are themselves accessible, readable, and valuable in terms of critical insight.